Story by Shelley Dawicki. Research Communications, NOAA/NEFSC, Woods Hole.
“Oohs” and “aahs” filled the air in Sue Warburton’s second grade classroom at the Fishing Cove Elementary School in North Kingstown on March 15.
Students waited anxiously as NOAA Oceanographer Jerry Prezioso from the NEFSC’s Narragansett Laboratory emptied a bag of small cups on the table, cups the students had designed weeks before and were now being returned to them after a trip to sea.
“The expressions on their faces and their excitement were wonderful,” Prezioso said. “There were so many questions from the students about marine life, and what we do at sea on our surveys and research cruises. They can ask some challenging questions!”
Prezioso was invited to the school several years ago to share some of his underwater photography with the second graders, who spend part of their school year learning about life in Narragansett Bay.
“That segued into marine life outside of Narragansett Bay, and I started sharing some photos and stories from our NEFSC cruises that I’ve been on,” Prezioso said. “This was the first year we tried the styrofoam cup experience with them, to demonstrate the effects of pressure from the ocean depths.”
The cups, decorated by 46 students, went to sea with Prezioso on a recent cruise aboard the NOAA Ship Pisces, where they were submerged in a mesh bag attached to the CTD/Niskin bottle water sampling array. Fifty-one decorated styrofoam cups were submerged during deep water casts, during which they shrunk to about one-fourth of their original size to demonstrate how pressure increases with depth in the ocean.
“Examining the intricate and creative designs the students came up with for their cups was great fun,” he said. “They really put a lot of effort into them.”
Prezioso now visits the school routinely, and later in the spring Fishing Cove School students will make a field trip to the Narragansett Bay Campus, visiting the NOAA Fisheries Laboratory, URI Bay Campus facilities and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Laboratory. It will be their third annual visit.